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Cicada-Fest 2013

There has been a LOT of commotion over these mysterious sporadic insects. The cicada emergence of 2013 has certainly caught the attention of a lot of people on the East Coast. As the southern states wrap up their cicada invasion, the northern portions of the country begin their turn! Here’s a recap of what happened in the Virginia area and tons of awesome footage provided courtesy of Mr. Roger Harris, ecologist and environmental scientist. So what's all this cicada business about anyway?

In Roger’s own words:

“I’m Roger Harris and I live in Louisa County, Virginia, about half way between Richmond and Charlottesville. I pay a lot of attention to natural phenomena and take lots of photographs and sometimes video of what I see; plants, bugs, birds, and all sorts of things, it depends what’s going on. I often considered making a documentary about the environment, but hadn’t done much with anything I had filmed in the past.

I listen to NPR on WCVE, on my way to work in the morning, and often catch Steve Clark interviewing Dr. Art Evans on the show “What’s Bugging You.” I heard them talk about the coming emergence of the 17 year cicadas, and to be on the lookout for their mud tubes. I’d heard about these big periodic emergences before, but had never noticed any vast numbers in any year, and wondered if it would be different this time. On April 24, I noticed a lot of these tubes in my back yard between my porch and basement stairs, broke one open and saw the nymph inside. With all the tubes I saw in this tiny area, I thought this might be something this time around.

I kept an eye on these tubes over the next few weeks while something appeared to be digging at them, squirrels, bird, I never saw what was doing it. Then when I arrived home from work on May 8th there was a cicada on my front porch. That evening, after dark I found some nymphs on my steps and climbing the porch railing, so I started recording video and taking pictures to capture it all. This continued over the weekend, and then slowed way down when it got cold.

I had no idea what was about to happen. It was amazing. The following Wednesday it hit 90 degrees, and that evening the ground erupted, cicada nymphs were crawling and climbing all over the place; the walls of my house, both porches, the light post and a big beech tree out front were covered with them. They were molting out of their shells in such great numbers that I stayed up past 3:00 am Friday and Saturday night to get as much video and as many pictures as I could to document their amazing transformation. I had left my tripod at a friend’s house so wasn’t able to just set up the camera and let it run without me holding it, so this early recording was pretty difficult.

Once I got my tripod, I set up a bucket filled with mulch to first hold up some sticks, then some small kindling planks for them to climb onto in a somewhat controlled situation to hopefully get the entire molting process from start to finish. I got this a couple of times, once letting the camera run overnight, and another starting it in the morning and recording while I went to work.

By June 1st, there were very few nymphs emerging, and I went about filming the adult stages of males singing in choruses up in the trees, then I found a couple near the ground mating. Finally this past weekend, I got a close up of a battered male calling, a female laying eggs, and just tonight, a close up of the eggs in a broken branch. I don’t hear them like I did at first and realize they’ll soon be gone for another 17 years, to emerge in 2030.

Awesome stuff!  Thanks for sharing with us Roger!

Also, cicada science would be incomplete without a little illustrated fun to pass along the way. That’s where the works of Mary Fichtel in the slide show above come in awful handy.

Question of the day:
What do you call it when a few cicadas play musical instruments together? See the last photo in the slide show above for the answer.

To share your cicada photos or stories go to VA Cicada Watch on facebook

Originally published by Prabir Mehta at My Glasses Rule.

Video footage filmed by Roger Harris, Environmental Specialist, Department of Environmental Quality, produced by Prabir Mehta, and illustrations created by Mary Fichtel.

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